Patterson criticized over Detroit comments in 'The New Yorker'

Patterson criticized over Detroit comments in 'The New Yorker'

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Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson
Paige Williams, Letter from Michigan, “Drop Dead, Detroit!,” The New Yorker, January 27, 2014, p. 32 Paige Williams, Letter from Michigan, “Drop Dead, Detroit!,” The New Yorker, January 27, 2014, p. 32
(WJBK) -

A top suburban official known for his blunt remarks in the past about Detroit is being criticized for another round of harsh comments against the city.

Under the headline "Drop Dead, Detroit!" published online Monday by The New Yorker magazine, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson is quoted as saying any time he talks about Detroit "it will not be positive" and recommending that people get gas in the suburbs before going into the city.

"That's just a call for a carjacking," Patterson, a former prosecutor, said of getting gas in Detroit.

The article describes the 75-year-old white Republican as selling the merits of Oakland County while bashing neighboring Detroit, which is more than 80 percent black. Last year, Detroit became largest U.S. city to enter bankruptcy.

Asked about how Detroit might fix its financial problems, Patterson was quoted as saying: "I made a prediction a long time ago, and it's come to pass. I said, `What we're gonna do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation, where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and then throw in the blankets and corn."'

The Rev. Charles Williams II, Michigan chapter president of the National Action Network, called for an apology Tuesday from Patterson. In a statement, Williams said the remarks were "repulsive."

"We've had too much division in this region with 8 Mile and city versus suburb," said Williams. "You don't see New York versus its out-county. You don't see Chicago versus its out-county. They work together."

A statement issued by a Patterson spokesman Bill Mullan to FOX 2 said the article cast Patterson "in a false light." The statement noted Patterson's record on advancing issues important to Detroit and the region, but didn't dispute the quotes or apologize.

Statement from Patterson's office:

"It is clear Paige Williams [the author] had an agenda when she interviewed County Executive Patterson. She cast him in a false light in order to fit her preconceived and outdated notions about the region. Mr. Patterson's record on advancing regional issues in a transparent and responsible manner is unparalleled. His initiatives have had a positive impact on the region."

Williams, reached Monday by the Free Press at her home in Boston, said there wasn't agenda against Patterson.

"Our focus was simply to explore what made Oakland County so successful. That's what we did do. It's a balanced portrait," she said.

FOX 2 was unable to get a hold of Patterson, but the longtime executive told WWJ-AM that the article is "an absolute hatchet job." He says those comments were made 30 years ago.

From WWJ-AM interview:

"I really feel betrayed. She came out, she wanted to talk about the comparison between Oakland County and Wayne County and Detroit," he said. "By the time she finished, it turned out to be all about me and my past comments on Detroit. That wasn't the way it was sold or I never would have accepted it, of course. It's a giant betrayal and I'm furious."

Statement from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Council President Brenda Jones:

"Brooks Patterson's statements were not what you would expect from a regional partner with a vested interest in a strong and healthy Detroit.  We hope he apologizes for this promptly.  The Mayor and Council remain focused on our unified efforts to improve the quality of life in Detroit and we are not going to be distracted by negative comments from anyone."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report

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